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Sculpture that keeps in the sheep.

HANDCRAFTED, SCULPTURAL GATES greet visitors arriving at homes and ranches in northern California's Sonoma County. Like graceful sentinels that invite or restrain, the gates draw attention to the transition from public roads to private land. Each of the ones shown here, designed and built by sculptor Bryan Tedrick of Glen Ellen, creates a memorable first impression that hints at the site's natural wonders--such as rolling hills or gnarled old oak trees. The gates also reveal something about the property owner's personality and esthetic concerns, and bestow a delightfully unexpected gift on the landscape.

Unlike the factory-built, rectangular metal gates that rigidly block many driveways and entry walks, Tedrick's gates are functional works of art that the artist considers kinetic sculpture. They often project a strong Western imagery and seem to have a life of their own. Natural forms such as the contorted shapes of oak branches or the undulating rhythm of the coastal hills inspire some of the gates. Others use geometric forms like diamonds or triangles. Most combine metal and wood, and some may also incorporate stucco, cast concrete, or even boulders from the site.

Whatever its form, each gate evolves after Tedrick visits the property, measures the openings, accounts for any slope, interviews the owners, and gathers impressions of them and how they live. He distills this information, develops a drawing, and, after approval, works out full-size plans.

For example, the ram-topped gate on the previous pages was built for the entry to a sheep ranch. The design includes imagery of the hills, the larger-than-life sheep (about 5 feet tall from hoof to back), a shepherd's crook, sculptured branches of live oaks, and even a symbolic curl for the fog that occasionally brushes the hills. The network of hot-rolled bar that fills the spaces between the wooden elements recreates wool's patterning on rain-soaked sheep.

The gates start at about $2,000 and increase in cost with size and complexity. They take a week to a month to construct. Tedrick begins by welding a frame of steel channel, rectangular tubing, or flat bar. In areas to be filled with wood, he forms a silhouette outline with metal, then welds in a cross-webbing of flat bar. Each wood shape has two sides; they're put together as mirror images on opposite sides of the cross-webbing. Bolts through wood and cross-webbing hold it all together. (Wooden plugs cover the bolts.) Tedrick shapes and rounds the wood in place. The metal frame lets the wood expand and contract without warping or weakening the gate.

Most of the gates hinge at the sides and are mounted to posts set in the ground, but a few use counterbalances and pivot around a pole offset near the middle. The distinctive ram gate and the abstract branch shown in the large photo below stretch across driveway. Despite their length and mass, the gates are well balanced and open with a gentle push. The counterweight--concrete, masses of poured metal, rocks, or sheets of steel--in the shorter arm of each gate is disguised as part of the sculpture.

Tedrick's gates and arches are gaining renown beyond northern California. His latest work, a wave-inspired portal of metal and wood, leads to Wolfgang Puck's new restaurant, Granita, in Malibu.
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Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:sculptured gates
Author:Whiteley, Peter O.
Date:Jan 1, 1992
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